If you’re planning to grow your own peppers, you may be wondering how many varieties of peppers there are and which ones are best to grow in a home garden. It’s a good idea to know which of the peppers are of top quality, especially if you plan to use them in your culinary creations. Despite popular perception, peppers can’t just be interchanged with each other when cooking. Specific peppers yield specific results.
How Many Varieties of Peppers Are There?
There are an estimated 50,000 different varieties of peppers grown throughout the world. That’s a massive number, but most of those aren’t considered “hot” peppers. In fact, just 4,000 of those are considered chili peppers.
In other words, fewer than one percent of peppers in the world are of the “hot” or spicy variety. Further, there are even fewer pepper varieties that are considered to be of heirloom quality, which is what you’re looking to grow in a home garden.
The word “heirloom” refers to a special object that has been passed down from generation to generation and has attained value through its meaningful journey. In terms of vegetables, “heirloom” has a similar meaning, except that heirloom vegetables come from seeds that have been passed down through the generations. These are not seeds that have been manipulated in any way, such as those that produce general grocery store vegetables. Instead, they are the genesis of organic farming.
Heirloom seeds produce a consistent product year after year, whereas the hybrid seeds used in many commercial growing operations could yield completely different products one year from another. Additionally, through the years, heirloom seeds have evolved to flourish in their specific regions, so they are usually more resistant to disease, pestilence, and drought. Finally, you’re getting a healthier vegetable that has more flavor as well, since organically-produced vegetables contain higher amounts of nutrients and minerals from growing in healthy soil. Below are some of my favorite different kinds of peppers.
Types of Heirloom Peppers
This is an extremely hot variety of heirloom pepper that hails from Central South America. It has a slightly citrus-like flavor and bears few seeds. You’ll get hotter-than-habanero heat, but after the quick sting of spice, you’ll find the lingering citrus notes addicting.
This pepper is ideal for salsas or any dish that also includes lemon and lime flavors, such as chicken and fish. You can also pair it nicely with any fresh fruit that normally goes well with oranges.
Lucifer’s Dream (Habanero Red )
A pepper that’s quite a few times hotter than jalapeno peppers, Lucifer’s Dream is a Caribbean favorite used in many jerked meat dishes. Like the fatalii, it has a slightly citrusy flavor and is often used as a substitute for cayenne pepper.
This plant will yield a lot of peppers, and even though they’re on the smaller side, the flavor is incredible, especially if you like a lot of spice. Use fresh or dried in chutneys, marinades, and salsas.
Habanero Mustard Pepper
This is another pepper that has its origins in the Caribbean, and it’s not only a spectacularly spicy pepper, it’s also a gorgeous one. They’ll begin growing as small green buds tinged with purple before changing to a yellow-orange color and finally bright orange as it matures.
This is a rare pepper to find commercially, so growing it yourself will ensure you have access to this fantastic vegetable that is great for jerk sauces and marinades.
Habanero Peach Pepper
A fruity-spicy pepper, the habanero peach pepper comes from the Caribbean and is, as its name suggests, peach in color when mature. They grow well in containers and in small gardens, so even if you don’t have a large space, this pepper can be one you enjoy.
It can be up to 140 times hotter than a jalapeno and works well in salsas and sauces. They’re also good sliced on sandwiches or burgers, but a little goes a long way.
Although they look quite a bit like red grapes, you can be assured they don’t taste like them! If you mistake a Joe’s Round pepper for a grape, you’re going to know it immediately because they are sizzling hot!
You might also see them sold under the name Ammazzo peppers, which is Italian for “small bunch of flowers,” which is exactly what a cluster of these peppers resemble. They are perfect peppers for salsa or for pickling.
Jalapeno Traveler Strain
Named after Larry Pierce of Cabool, Missouri, the Jalapeno Traveler Strain pepper is an American heirloom pepper that was first grown in Oklahoma, then carried by Pierce to Wyoming and Missouri.
These peppers are milder than most on this list, but that makes them ideal for roasting, pureeing, or smoking. They still pack quite a spicy punch, though, and you’ll definitely remember eating one! You’ll find them in salsas, salads, and as an added flavor in Mexican dishes.
Joe’s Long Cayenne
A scorching hot, 12-inch skinny pepper, Joe’s Long Cayenne originated in Calabria, Italy before coming to North America by way of Toronto. It finally found its way to Joe Sestito in Troy, New York, who gave it his name. Pepper flakes, hot sauce, spicy vinegar, and more are just some of the applications for this pepper.
Some people even dry them and use them to make gorgeous ristras for their Christmas trees. These are a very high-yield pepper variety.
This flavorful pepper comes from the Republic of Georgia, and with a name like “flame,” you know it’s a hot one. However, it has a sweet side, too, making it a very versatile pepper.
Its main application is salsa, as it has crunchy flesh, but it’s also fabulous in pepper jelly and can be successfully dried, roasted, or fried. They grow to be about eight inches long, and you’ll get approximately 30 peppers per plant, per year.
These tiny peppers (about an inch long) look beautiful on the plant, like red Christmas tree bulbs poking up through green leaves. Their small size means they can be easily grown in containers or compact gardens.
You can expect to get about 200 peppers from each plant, so if you’re looking for a high-yield pepper, this one fits the bill. They’re often ground up to be added to curry pastes but are a staple of many other Asian culinary dishes.
As with the Thai hot pepper, the orange Thai is originally from Thailand, and their heat is similar as well. However, these peppers have a bit of sweetness to them that the red variety doesn’t have.
Orange Thai peppers are often used in seasonings such as chili powder and chili flakes, but they’re great in salsas, pastes, and hot sauces, too. Use them in a stir fry to add some color as well as flavor to a traditional Asian meal.
Bhut Jolokia Ghost
Intensely spicy, the Bhut Jolokia Ghost pepper earned the title of the world’s hottest pepper in 2007 and is so hot that this native Indian pepper has even been the main ingredient in some self-defense pepper sprays.
They are more than five times hotter than a habanero pepper or over 400 times hotter than a jalapeno. Use sparingly in stews, soups, and chilis. They are excellent options to dry for flakes and powders.
If you love spicy or hot foods, chances are you’re a pepper lover and have considered growing your own. There is no better way to enjoy peppers than to grow them in your garden from seed. If you live in a region with short growing seasons, container gardening can be the ideal solution for having a bumper crop of peppers at any time during the year. Heirloom peppers can be easy to grow in a small container or garden if you use heirloom-quality seeds that have already proven to be hearty and productive. Happy growing!